Croatia is officially a state, yet religion has played a large role in terms of informing the cultural values of Croatians. A majority of Croatians identified with Christianity, with 86.3% identifying as Roman Catholic and 4.4% identifying as Eastern . Of the remaining population, 1.5% identified as Muslim, 1.5% identified with some other religion, 3.8% identified as non-religious or and 2.5% did not specify.1 Throughout Croatian history, there has been a close association between identity and religious affiliation. Croats – the largest group in Croatia – mostly identified as Roman Catholic, whereas Serbs identified as Eastern (see Ethnic Interactions in Core Concepts for more information).
Catholicism in Croatia
Although Croatia does not have an official religion, the Catholic religion has a large and influential role in society. As a branch of Christianity, Catholicism is based on the doctrine of God as the ‘Holy Trinity’, consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Important values within the Catholic faith that manifest in Croatian cultural values include compassion and graciousness. Like most Catholics, many Croatians accept the authority of the priesthood and the Roman Catholic Church, which is led by the Pope.
Previously, it was the clergy that shaped the education and culture of the country, but the church lost much of its influence with the rise of communism. Since the breakup of communist Yugoslavia, the Catholic church has regained some prominence in people’s lives. However, many people do not have a high opinion of the Catholic Church, with some arguing that the church has too large of a presence in the media and in politics. Generally speaking, many Croatians consider themselves Roman Catholic and believe in the fundamental teachings of the religion, but may not be strict in practising their faith through regular church attendance.
Catholicism continues to be an important aspect of the Croatian identity, and influences of the religion are evident in various facets of life. For example, Catholic seminal moments – such as baptism, confirmation and marriage – are an important part of one’s life and relationships with others. Moreover, Croatians are particularly devoted to the ‘Blessed Virgin’ (‘Gospa’) and sanctuaries can be found throughout the country in her honour. Many will make the pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia, which is home to a sacred Virgin Mary statue.
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